Theatre Review: The Play That Goes Wrong @ Bristol Hippodrome
by Steve Hartill
Mischief Theatre are at this point something of a national phenomenon, and this latest outing of The Play That Goes Wrong more than maintains that reputation. It's a show where every detail is important, no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time, whether it be a discarded prop or a line which is seemingly misspoken. At the same time, the whole show allows the audience to feel like it's all at risk of collapsing at any moment, with an almost sadistic level of glee for us in watching the Cornley Polytechnic Dramatic Society run the gauntlet.
It really does feel like a gauntlet, too, with exceptional feats of physical comedy paired with an incredibly creative set design This is one of the most admirable parts of the show as a whole. No part of the set is wasted. Every piece is used within the whole to support punchlines and elicit gasps out of the audience. It all makes the bodily act of performing the show alone pretty remarkable. This, combined with the hilarity of the writing and the characters, makes it a truly special production.
Every character had their own comedic depth, with each Cornley player's personality pairing with varying degrees of success to each murder mystery character they were cast to play. The quirks of each character individually contributed to the overall hilarity.
"a truly special production"
Benjamin McMahon's stiff-legged walk as Perkins the butler, Bobby Hirston's extreme likeability whilst being an utter force of destruction as Cecil Haversham or Catherine Dryden's giddiness at her time to shine as stage manager Annie Twlloil. Similarly, Kazeem Tosin Amore's intense professionalism as Thomas Colleymore played brilliantly with Jake Curran's surprisingly sympathetic Basil Fawlty-like Inspector Carter. Gabriel Paul's crowd-pleasing technician, Trevor, was also an excellent contrast to the determined to seduce Florence Colleymore, played by Elena Valentine, and the tragically passionate Charles Haversham played by Steven Rostance.
The unique pairing of extraordinary risk and intricate details, like all great slapstick comedy and illusions, is what makes this show a truly well-crafted comedy. The only drawback of the show is that some of the more detailed, scripted jokes might be lost in and amongst the spectacular chaos. Regardless, even when you think you've picked up on the next pattern of jokes, this show finds a new way to evolve and surprise you.
Photo credit: Robert Day
When Steve isn't watching and writing about theatre, he's making his own up as an improvising comedian and actor. He's best known as a member of Degrees of Error, the improvised theatre company especially in their improvised murder mystery show, Murder, She Didn't Write. Find out more about Steve and them by following them on Facebook or Twitter, or by visiting their website.